At a Glance: A History of Conflict in Côte d’Ivoire
Henri Bedie overthrown in military coup. Robert Guei takes power.
Fighting breaks out between supporters of Laurent Gbagbo (primarily from the south) and supporters of Alassane Ouattara (primarily from the north). Gbagbo becomes president.
Rebels take over the north after failed coup attempt. Conflict escalates.
Côte d’Ivoire holds first election in 10 years. Gbagbo and Ouattara lead first round of voting.
After November's run-off vote the president of the Independent Electoral Commission declares Ouattara the winner. The Constitutional Council declares Gbagbo the winner, leading to standoff.
UN Security Council votes unanimously to deploy 2,000 peacekeepers and the international community imposes sanctions to unseat Gbagbo.
Civilian casualties mount at the hands of the Armed Forces (controlled by Gbagbo) and rebels loyal to Ouattara.
Call Off Côte d’Ivoire's Bloody War Games
The math doesn’t make sense. The Independent Electoral Commission declared 2,107,055 votes for Gbagbo and 2,483,164 votes for Ouattara when only 3,990,000 people voted. Only Gbagbo complained about the results, but why was there no thought to a new round of elections?
Rather than award the presidency to men who are willing to kill their own people for power, a moderate solution would be to call for new elections, or instill a transitory government, military or civilian, without these two men.
The descent into violence could have been prevented. Independent Electoral Commission president Bakayoko made the greatest mistake he could make by proclaiming Ouattara’s victory without the consensus of the other members. Today, Bakayoko is safe in France with his whole family while we are suffering. The Constitutional Council can also be blamed for not validating Bakayoko’s announcement of Ouattara as the winner. Because a careless attitude was applied to these sensitive proceedings, our country is in chaos.
Gbagbo is not my relative; neither is Ouattara, and I am not ready to fight for either of them. Some of my fellow countrymen and women are. They are discouraged, ashamed, angry, passionate, fed-up, and tired.
According to many of my fellow Ivorians, Ouattara is the president and Gbagbo has overstayed his welcome. In 10 years all he succeeded in accomplishing is poverty, bloodshed, and embezzlement. While people are dying he fights only for his presidential seat.
Another group of Ivorians want Ouattara to admit that he trafficked ballots with the help of rebels in the north and leave his quest for the presidency. I spoke with people who would rather die than have Ouattara run the country. My neighbors say that the international community is only backing Ouattara because it is in their interest, that the rebels are eating with Outtara, threatening us, and the whole world is applauding.
Today I cannot talk with my neighbors. I don’t know what is in a person’s heart. Even questioning people to write this story sparked accusations. A friend of mine called me pro-Gbagbo. I have also been accused of supporting Ouattara. Husbands and wives are fighting over this. Brothers cannot discuss our fragmented politics with each other; some have stopped attending church. Others are forbidden to enter mosques—all in the name of politics.
I have stopped watching TV—except for cartoons. The local state-owned channel runs continuous stories on Gbagbo and how he has won. The foreign news channels keep me worrying all night with reports on rebel leader and Ouattara’s Prime Minister Soro Guillaume’s ultimatums. We are tired of all this. They should stop using us for their game, stop counting dead people as trophies while the people suffer.
This election has done nothing but solidify the divide between the north and the south. I blame the UN, France, the international community, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and all the political party leaders in Côte d’Ivoire who knew that having this election with armed rebels occupying the north would end like this. But they still urged us to do so.
I had hoped the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union could help in pacifist ways after their delegation missions in late December and early January, but they have failed me with their willingness to engage in violence to instate their winner. The African Union and West African community are more concerned about signatures on bank accounts and seat shares than our lives.
I question the motives of the international community, and I worry that we will end up like Iraq: a country cut into pieces that will take decades to rebuild. Other African countries have contested leaders or less than perfect election results, but none of them have received this level of interference from the international community—and I doubt the real motivation is democracy. By sending troops to my country, the whole world has signed our death sentence.
The sanctions imposed to weaken Gbagbo are hurting the people of Côte d’Ivoire. Farmers cannot sell their cocoa and coffee because the international community has decided it. But these producers are not politicians. Medical supply shipments to Cote d'Ivoire have been blocked and people are dying. Those who fall sick and need drugs are not politicians. The Economic Community of West African States has blocked our financial transactions. How should we eat? How should we take care of our children? Those of us who are suffering are not politicians. No country in the world would agree to have an embargo like this imposed on its people. And neither do we. If the international community wants Gbagbo out, they know where to find him.
Rwanda, Liberia, and other African countries are using discussion to recover from atrocities and painful destruction. Why don’t we skip the violence? Why don’t we sit down, negotiate and discuss, straight from the beginning, and save our lives? We are not asking for money or for food to fall from the sky. We want our lives spared. We want to go to school, get medical care, do our business, trade, and live without fear. We want to invest and see our children laugh and dance and grow with love.
It is not easy to find solutions to this mess, but I believe that if women organize and call for the departure of these two men, we can come to a resolution sooner. Women have been expressing their views on TVs, radio, through meetings and protest marches from the beginning.
In Africa when women are tired they get up, and when they are dying they can curse you. In my country, a curse from a woman is the worst thing a politician can face. These men are not allowing each other to rule the country, but the women of Côte d’Ivoire are getting up and we are speaking for ourselves.